Ahmed al-Katib [real name: Abdilrasool Lari], is a controversial Iraqi Shii author, he started as your regular run-of-the-mill hardcore Islamist, and then suddenly did a 180 from supporter of Khomeinist Vilayet-e-Faqih into declaring that Imam Mahdi does not exist, thus incurring the displeasure of many a Shii scholar, in fact, when I asked my Badr-inclined friend in Najaf about him, he replied curtly that "his blood has been declared halal by the clergy." His viewpoint regarding theological matters does not concern me here, but his biography is pretty exciting, it puts a personal face and sheds illuminating insight regarding several things I've previously only heard in passing and without this sort of first-hand confirmation. Those include :
a ) Shii atmosphere (in Kerbala at least) in the early 1960s was still continuing on the road of traditional Shii political negligement, and it tended to discourage enagagement in even public schools, they scarcely cared about the turmoil in Baghdad.
b ) The formation of secret cells preaching Shii belief in Sunni countries during the expansionist days of the Islamic revolution.
I've translated things I find interesting, you can read the original Arabic on his website, he also runs an Arabic blog (listed on IBC) here.
I was born in June 13th, 1953 in the Iraqi city of Kerbala, the royal regime in Iraq was dying, while the Iraqi opposition was riding on a Leftist communist wave, or so did the regime portray for the people, particularly the devout of them. While the religiously-themed Kerbala stood in opposition regarding the royal regime which was installed following the aftermath of the 1920 Revolution led by religious cleric Mohammed Taqi al-Shirazi, who took Kerbala as his base of operations, Kerbala was nevertheless the birthplace of an Islamic movement that stood to challenge the "Atheist" wave, it was led by a group of religious clerics, with Sayyid al-Shirazi at the helm. My father was a young member of that movement, he was only 20 years old when he married, and he pledged to my mother that their firstborn would be devoted to religious life.
The city of Kerbala was built around the grave of Imam Hussein bin Ali, who was killed at the hands of the Umayyad Army during the reign of Yazid bin Muawiya. It started as a small village that grew into a city that accomodates about 50,000 Arabs and Persians who emigrated during previous centuries, the city is overwhelmingly Twelver Shi'i, and has about 200 mosques, all Shi'i save one or two Sunni mosques, one of which lies in The Carpenters Street, and is exclusive to government employees and a few Sunni individuals, the mosque was easily recognized through the different time and composition of the adhan (call to prayer).
At the early age of five, my mother taught me the alphabet and Qur'an recital, and when I was seven my father took me to a new private Islamic school administered, as some devout people, including my father, still adhered to the ruling issued by the religious clergy at the foundation of modern Iraq to boycott governmental schools which they viewed as a corruption of youth in order to distance them from religion and the authority of the clergy eventually. The boycott also involved the Iraqi state, its boards and its job positions.
Anyone living in Kerbala would be introduced with the story of Imam Hussein martyrdom spontaneously, wherever you would go there were Husseini convoys held in each mosque, each street and each neighborhood and inside houses too, all through the months of Muharram and Safar and in many other occasionas and observations, such as the death anniversary of any of the Imams.
UPBRINGING: WARRIOR WITHIN
one night I saw in my sleep the battle of Kerbala, and I saw Imam Hussein crying famously for people to come to his aid, and I found myself joining Imam Hussein's army against Yazid's, I told my mother about my dream, she was visibly happy, she encouraged me and wished me paradise alongside the Lord of Paradise's Youth (i.e. Hussein), my mother would tell me that we hail from Habib bin Mudhahir al-Assadi, who was a leader of Kufa and who urged Imam Hussein to come to Iraq, he held steadfast and was killed while protecting The Imam from arrow strikes as the Imam prayed on the day of battle. Thus he was buried in a special coffin, and there still is a special box in front of the tomb of Imam Hussein to the left of the entrance, I used to have a special spiritual bond between me and him as I visited Imam Hussein every week, I used to be inspired by standing there and pledging him to follow his example in supporting Imam Hussein during the eternal battle.
but if Imam Hussein was killed 14 centuries ago, then another battle awaits us, and there is still an Occulted Imam to look for, the Hidden 12th Imam, my mother was preparing me to be one of his soldiers, one of the 313 Disciples, whose presence is a necessary condition for his re-emergence." (now that's some cool *stuff*!), she used to tell me that I must adhere to the most upright morals and behavior so as to be one of the disciples and to meet Imam Mahdi, who is soon to emerge and fill the Earth with justice and harmony after it has become filled with cruelty and injustice.
My mother would tell me stories of how Imam Mahdi would reach out to the loyal Shia of the highest religious standard and upbringing in their times of trouble, I rememer in particualar the story of the Pomegranate, (for a detailed account of this story, click here) The story - which contained neither names nor dates - bolstered my faith in the Imam, to whom I was raised to be a faithful soldier.
In those early years, perhaps before I became 10 years old, we travelled once to the city of Samarra to visit the shrines of Ali al-Hadi and Hasan al-Askari, as well as the occultation basement of al-Mahdi, we would normally rent a room in one of Samarra's residents' houses, who were Sunni, I remember that the housewife who sat chatting to my mother wanted to tease me and offered to marry me her daughter, but I quickly refused, I replied innocently: because your daughter is a Sunni like you! My mother was embarrased, and I lost a beautiful wife as the people of Samarra are known for their marvelous beauty.
NEXT: THE SOUL OF KERBALA